Best of 2019: My Favorite Books of the Year

I have head SUCH a fantastic reading year, you guys! Not only did I surpass my goal by a crazy amount (mostly thanks to the OWLs and NEWTs readathons) but I also did really well balancing older and newer books, catching up on unfinished series, finally picking up that book everyone loved ten years ago, and so on. I am quite proud of myself and I am even happier that I have such a long list of favorites. 2019 has been good to me, reading-wise.

As per usual, I’ll split my top reads into books published in 2019 and books published before this year. This will also give you a good idea of which books will make it onto my nomination ballot for the Hugo Awards. I’ll include all the 2019 publications I’ve read that didn’t make my list of favorites, so you know what pool I have chosen these books from.

Favorite Books Published in 2019

Novels

The most recent publication of 2019 and a book I did not expect to love as much as I did was Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo.  I knew I liked her writing, her characters, and her stories (so… everything, basically), but this is her first novel for adults. It is set in the real world and it deals with ghosts and demons and stuff. That didn’t sound like my jam. But boy, did I fall into this story! It took me all of one chapter to fall in love. Then the crazy world of secret societies in Yale drew me in more and more. Alex Stern is one hell of a protagonist, the plot was exciting, the storytelling structure kept me intrigued the entire time… I hope that enough people read this in time for nomination season because it totally deserves an award nod or two.

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine was a fantastic start to a space opera trilogy (series?) that I went into without much expectation. Reviews had generally been positive, so I thought I’d try it out. And then Arkady Martine blew me away with great world building, brilliant ideas, and characters that sneakily weaseled their way into my heart. We follow Mahit Dzmare, the embassador of a small space station, to the capital of the gigantic Teixcalaanli empire because the previous embassador has been mysteriously killed. Now, figuring out whether it was murder and if so, who murdered him, is one thing. But navigating that foreign-to-Mahit society with a second person implanted into your brain is a whole different story. I was hooked immediately and enjoyed every single page. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

I am one of many people who loved the clever mind-fuck that was Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade. Part military science fiction, part time travel story, lots of nods to Heinlein and Haldeman, but entirely its own thing, this novel kept me transfixed the entire time. When I wasn’t trying to figure out what the hell was going on or putting the puzzle pieces together, I was engaged by the protagonist and their internal struggles, and especially by the world Hurley has created. There are so many details in this book that I suspect make it a great candidate for multiple re-reads. I urge everyone who likes either time travel, riddles, or military SF to pick it up. I am pretty sure this will end up on the Hugo Award short list.

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey came out of nowhere for me. It was sold as Harry Potter for adults but with a Muggle protagonist. And yeah, it pretty much is that, but it’s also a detective story at a magic school. The murder mystery was exciting and I loved following along with Ivy as she gathered clues, interviewed people, and so on. But what made this book so special for me was the frayed relationship between our muggle protagonist and her magical sister (there is some jealousy involved, as you can imagine) and the student characters we get to know throughout the story. This was just an incredibly well written book that I hope more people will pick up. I haven’t heard a lot of buzz around it yet but it absolutely deserves it.

Other 2019 books I’ve read:  Tamsyn Muir – Gideon the Ninth, Alix E. Harrow – The Ten Thousand Doors of January, Silvia Moreno-Garcia – Gods of Jade and Shadow, G. Willow Wilson – The Bird King, Helen Oyeyemi – Gingerbread, Katherine Arden – The Winter of the Witch, Fonda Lee – Jade War

Young Adult

For the Retellings Challenge I picked up Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer, which retells one of my favorite tales, East of the Sun, West of the Moon. Instead of a polar bear, the male character in this story is a white wolf. And while all the stops of the original fairy tale are there, Meyer has made this quite her own story. Echo is a lovable heroine whose decisions remain understandable the entire time (if you know the fairy tale, then you know that is not the case with the original protagonist).  The magic castle where Echo lives with the wolf almost feels like its own character (it has a magical library!!!), and the ending was such a thing of perfection, I have no words to describe it.

I have loved Sam J. Miller‘s writing ever since I read The Art of Starving. His adult novel Blackfish City was even better! So naturally I grabbed Destroy All Monsters the moment it came out. While it wasn’t quite as perfect as his other two books, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Again, it had brilliant, flawed, difficult characters, and the relationships between them are anything but simple. This book wasn’t so much about the plot (there is one, don’t worry) but more about mental health, friendship, and how to deal with trauma. The fantasy element was cool but if you want nice, clean lines between your fantasy world and the real world, this may not be for you. Things get blurry, things get messy, and I loved every bit of it.

I will say again what I’ve said in my review of the book. I liked The Cruel Prince but I LOVED The Wicked King by Holly Black. The characters are already set up, the world isn’t new for us readers anymore, and the plot in this second book just keeps on giving. Jude and Cardan’s relationship has always been weird, to say the least, but Holly Black does such a fantastic job writing these characters that I kept catching myself hoping they’d end up together. It’s wrong… and it’s made clear that it’s wrong. Cardan’s a dick, Jude is getting more and more power-hungry, and their feelings for each other are probably more lust than love. But man, do I ship them! But this isn’t only a book about whether two characters get together – there is political intrigue, betrayal, really thrilling scenes where you worry for the protagonist’s life, and oh yeah… you may have heard that the ending offers a huuuuge twist. I did not see it coming and it hit me right where it hurts, like all the best stories do.

Other 2019 YA books I’ve read:  Brigid Kemmerer – A Curse so Dark and Lonely, T. Kingfisher – Minor Mage, Margaret Rogerson – Sorcery of Thorns, Holly Black – The Queen of Nothing

Novellas

My biggest surprise when it comes to novellas was probably To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers. Not only did that short book pack a lot of plot but it also shows great worldbuilding, the authors’ well-known almost too nice characters (a bit less nice but more realistic here than in her novels) but it also makes you geek out with the four space travellers over finding a tiny proof of life on a distant planet. There is so much to discover in these pages and I loved everything about the story. Even the ending – though it is a polarizing one – was okay for me. Sure, I may have preferred a slightly different one but I felt that the chosen ending hit the right tone for the novella’s ultimate message.

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone turned out to be a completely different kind of story than I expected. Two agents of warring factions are changing events in time in order to achieve… some goal, I guess? You see, it’s not important why there is a Time War, what’s being fought for, or even who may win in the end. Red and Blue, the two protagonists, communicate across space and time via letters and coded messages. Their correspondence turns into friendship and even into love. So this is an epistolary story with a time travel background, but the heart of it are the characters and the beautiful language. It’s not what I expected but I enjoyed it very much. I admit, my esteem for the tale has grown a little less as I am slowly forgetting details about it, but while I was reading it, I was completely in that world. And for that, it deserves a spot on this list.

Other 2019 novellas  I’ve read: C. S. E. Cooney – Desdemona and the Deep

Graphic Novels

I knew I would love Colleen Doran‘s graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman‘s short story Snow, Glass, Apples. I just didn’t know how much. This dark retelling of Snow White from the point of view of the not-really-evil stepmother hit all the right spots. It’s clear early on that Snow White is the villain in this one and the queen is just trying to save her people. As dark fairy tales go, this one is pretty damn dark! But what made it even better than the story as such was the amazing artwork by Colleen Doran. The story just flows across these pages, even though there is little use of panes. There are so many details that you can linger on every page, soaking in the gorgeous drawings. Highly recommended!

Other 2019 graphic novels I’ve read: V. E. Schwab & Andrea Olimpieri – Shades of Magic: The Steel Prince

Non-Fiction

Nnedi Okorafor’s Broken Places & Outer Spaces was a fairly short read, but it packed a punch. I have read many of Okorafor’s books and loved them all (most recently the Akata series which gave me the same vibes as Harry Potter did all those years ago), but I hadn’t known anything about her as a person. In this book, she talks about an operation on her spine which left her paralysed. She explains not just what life is like with limited mobility (spoiler: it’s difficult, and there’s lots of little things able-bodied people like myself don’t even think about) but also how this thing made her into the person she is, how it gave her ideas and how she then put those ideas into writing. As memoirs go, I have little experience, but this was as exciting to read as any novel, and I loved the insight it gave me into where some of Nnedi’s amazing ideas had actually come from.

Favorite Audiobooks (published whenever)

I have loved audiobooks for as long as I can remember but ever since I developed a serious audiobook habit, I have noticed just how much of a difference the narrator can make. In order to honor the people who have read me some gorgeous stories, I want to share my favorite audiobooks with you. These aren’t necessarily favorite books, but the narration or production of the audiobook feel noteworthy to me.

Nnedi Okorafor makes an appearance again, with her amazing novel Akata Warrior. This book also belongs to the list below (favorites published before 2019), but the audiobook was such a standout experience that I have to mention it here. As the book is set in Nigeria and features mostly Nigerian characters, but a protagonist who grew up in America, narrator Yetide Badaki had to do different accents. Now I can’t judge how accurate the Nigerian accents were (Badaki was born in Nigeria, so I assume she knows what she’s doing), but it was such a pleasure listening to the story and to the dialogue that frequently switched between American English and English with a Nigerian accent, that I was totally immersed in the experience. The duology (so far) also comes highly recommended in general. As mentioned above, it gave me strong Harry Potter vibes, not because it’s a copy of our favorite boy wizard but because reading it filled me with the same sense of wonder.

Holly Black’s The Queen of Nothing may not have made it into my favorites of 2019, because I just loved The Wicked King more, but the audiobook narration of all three novels in this trilogy is fantastic! The books are read by Caitlin Kelly and while she doesn’t do accents, I really liked how she differentiated between the various characters. She was especially great at reading Cardan. When audiobook narrators read a character of a different gender from their own, it can sometimes sound forced or even ridiculous (men doing squeaky high voices for female characters for example) but Kelly managed to deepen her voice and even to give Cardan a super sexy timbre without ever taking me out of the story’s flow.

Lastly, I have to recommend Graphic Audio yet again for their mindblowing productions. In 2019, I listened to the full cast audiboook of Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer, and it was as much of a treat as the previous two books. The series itself is a highly ambitious riveting epic fantasy that I just can’t get enough of. But having the dialogues acted out by different people, with background music and sound effects, just turns these audiobooks into a whole new experience. Graphic Audio have adapted most of Sanderson’s work and while the audiobooks don’t come cheap, I highly recommend you check them out. You can start with one of Sanderson’s shorter standalone works or the Mistborn series to see if you like this type of radio play. I gladly throw my money at them and basically auto-buy any new adaptation that comes out. Because they’re just that good!

Other audiobooks I’ve listened to: Megan Whalen Turner – The Thief, Megan Whalen Turner – The Queen of Attolia, Seanan McGuire – Beneath the Sugar Sky, Becky Chambers – Record of a Spaceborn Few, Martha Wells – Rogue Protocol, Leigh Bardugo – The King of Scars

Favorite Books published pre-2019

My standout older book of the year was probably The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker. I had known that I would love this book but I didn’t know just how much. Every review I’d read has mentioned buzz words and plot devices that pushed all my buttons. But reading about Chava and Ahmad, these two mythological creatures pretending to be humans, following their day-to-day lives, and discovering their origins, was so much more rewarding than I could have guessed. I loved everyting about this book. The characters, the language, the structure… and then Wecker even goes ahead and delivers an action-packed perfect ending.

Another book that gave me tons of warm and fuzzy feelings was Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer. I had actually started reading this before 2019 but put it aside again (because the timing sucked). This time around, I was enthralled the entire time. When I wasn’t basking in Taylor’s lyrical language, I let myself fall into her world of blue-skinned demon children, a boy who grew up in a library, and a city trying to get over its dark past. I haven’t picked up the second part of this duology yet because I have a feeling I will need this book for bad times or a reading slump. Strange the Dreamer was one of the most gorgeous tales I have ever read and it has a firm place in my heart.

I was already in love with The Raven Cycle so when I picked up The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, I expected nothing less than a new favorite. And I got just that. But in addition to a beautifully told story about magical horses who come from the sea and eat humans (and whatever else they can find), Stiefvater also delivered a brilliant, quiet romance between two incredibly lovable characters, and the most perfect last line I have ever read. In any book. Ever!
I cried several times during this novel, but when I read that last page and got to that last line, I was a sobbing mess. If you want a gorgeous standalone novel with a bit of mythology, a bit of romance, and fantastic characters, pick this up.

This was the year of Leigh Bardugo for me. I finished her Grisha Trilogy (plus King of Scars) and I’m finally getting the hype. Her short story collection, The Language of Thorns, was a spectacular return to the Grishaverse.
These are the fairytales told in the actual Grishaverse. So you get “The Too-Clever Fox” (where Nikolai’s nickname comes from) plus a bunch of others. Each story is fantastic on its own but together they paint such a vivid picture of the world Bardugo has created. Plus, the book itself is stunning. The print comes in two colors and with gorgeous illustrations.

I enjoyed Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff’s Gemina – the second book in the Illuminae Files Trilogy – mostly because it was the right book at the right time for me. At a different time, my opinion of this book could have been very different, more critical, more analytical. But I needed a quick, thrilling adventure with a bit of romance and this fit perfectly. The format, transcripts of video footage, chat messages, phone calls, etc., made this really easy to read. The plot was like Die Hard in Space and the romance may not have been original, but it worked for me. While it is maybe not an award-worthy piece of writing, it gave me exactly what I needed and I enjoyed every single page. Who cares if this is great literature. It gave me plenty of enjoyment, silly romance, action and fun, and I will not feel guilty for loving it!

Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman is a special book. I didn’t fall head over heels in love with it immediately, but the story grew on me over time. The longer I read, the more I liked it and the more I cared about Tess. It’s a quiet tale of a girl coming into her own, dealing with her past, and finding her place in the world – quite literally. Although it is an episodic story, it never felt episodic. The writing is beautiful, but the characters were the living, beating heart of this book. So though this wasn’t an immediate crush, once I finished the book I couldn’t stop thinking about it and the warm, happy feelings it gave me stayed with me for quite a while.

That’s it for my favorites of the year. 2019 has been good to me!
I discovered some new-to-me authors, I caught up on series and backlists by authors I already liked, I read a variety of books – graphic novels, non-fiction, novellas, and of course lots of novels – and it has been an incredibly rewarding year. What were your favorites? Leave a link to your post or share your standout 2019 books with me in the comments! I love to see what everyone else read this year and which books I may have overlooked. And of course:

Happy New Year!!! 🙂

My Top 7 Books of 2017

It’s a sort of unwritten custom to post a best of the year list whenever a new year arrives and I think it’s a good way of getting this blog back on its feet. After surviving my roughest year yet with lots of personal challenges, I believe I’m slowly getting ready to turn a new page. I wouldn’t have been able to keep going without my wonderful friends and family whose support means so incredibly much to me. Life goes on, even when a loved one leaves us, and all we can do is fill our days with things and people that make us happy. I’m trying to make my grandmother proud every day, even if she’s not here to see it. Books and reading have always been a source of joy for me and I had no greater cheerleader in my obsession than my grandmother. So here’s to a new great year of reading. Let me welcome it with my favorite books from last year:

My Favorite Books Published in 2017

Katherine Arden – The Bear and the Nightingale

Without a doubt, my favorite book of last year (both published last year and older), this Russian-inspired fairy tale had so much atmosphere and told such a riveting story that it catapulted Katherine Arden onto my top author shelf immediately. Vasya is a fantastic heroine who – despite the slow loss of old beliefs – holds on to the old gods and tries to save her home, all by herself. The snowy landscape, the threat of true winter, the politics and magic and mythology all go so perfectly well together to make this book a perfect read for a cold day by a chimney (if you have one) or in front of a nice steaming cup of tea (if you don’t).

Martha Wells – All Systems Red

A rogue robot with a preference for soap operas doesn’t go on a killing spree – although they could – but instead helps the people they’re meant to protect survive a plot on an unexplored planet. The narration was just too damn good to not read this in one sitting! Murderbot is amazing and has so much personality that the edges between human and artificial intelligence get blurred. I can’t wait to read the sequel(s).

Mishell Baker – Phantom Pains

The follow-up to Borderline was as amazing – if not more – than Baker’s debut novel. Millie has to deal with the consequences of the events in Borderline and although a lot of terrible things happen once more, this is still one of those uplifting, feel-good series that I can’t quite explain. Millie still isn’t a perfect heroine and maybe that’s what makes her so wonderfully likable. In addition to telling another exciting story, this novel opens the world a bit and expands on what we learned in Borderline. It also made my mouth water for the third book which will come out in 2018.

Catherynne M. Valente – The Refrigerator Monologues

Cat Valente does wonderful things with words! While I prefer her when she’s playing with fairy tales and mythology, this short novel shows that she can do comic book style narration as well. Giving the women of famous comic book heroes a voice – after their death, that is – is not only a great idea, but it also shows just how carelessly some comic books create and kill/rape/torture their female characters, simply to give the (male) hero something to do or someone to avenge. Valente shows that there’s more to these girls than existance as a tired old trope.

My Favorite Books Published Before 2017

Brandon Sanderson – Words of Radiance

So yeah, everybody who’s been raving about The Stormlight Archive for the last years, was absolutely right. It is the most epic of epic fantasies with characters you can actually care about and a world so large and so filled with history and mythology that it probably will take those 10 volumes to explore it all. While the first book was very much an introduction into this crazy world (although it didn’t feel like it at the time), this one digs a little deeper, grants the characters more powers (both magical and personality-wise), and shows a bit more of what the world holds in store for us. I can’t get over how much I love Kaladin, and his interactions with Shallan were my favorite bits of the book, although that probably makes me sound like a huge fangirl.
The only reason I haven’t read Oathbringer yet is that I’m waiting for Graphic Audio to do the audio version of it. The actors doing the character’s voices, to me, have completely become those characters and I hope I can experience the entire series in this format.

Catherynne M. Valente – Palimpsest

Oh Cat, is there anything you can’t turn into a gorgeous story? Seriously, a sexually transmitted city is the premise for this gorgeous tale, and although there isn’t much plot at first, not a single chapter is boring. Because Valente plays so much with imagery and symbolism, even chapters where nothing happens are so full of meaning that reading feels more like devouring a fantastic meal. This is a book that rivets the senses and – Valente’s weakness, in my opinion – even delivers a beautiful ending that left me happy and satisfied.

Laini Taylor – Lips Touch: Three Times

This was my surprise of the year. I never warmed to Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series because the old-man-in-a-young-body falling in love with a teenage girl trope crept me the hell out. But this collection of three novellas absolutely blew me away. Taylor invents her own mythologies and plays with more well-known legends and tells beautiful stories within them. Whether you’d like to read a modern take on Goblin Market or read about how to deal with a devil, each story is beautifully told and has gorgeous illustrations. I am beyond happy to have a hardback copy of this on my shelf. Plus, this book convinced me to give Taylor’s other books another try.

I know there are a ton of books from last year that I didn’t get to and I’m trying to catch up now. Hugo nominating season will arrive soon and I want to make informed decisions about the books that are eligible. Here’s a few from the top of my list:

  • Mur Lafferty – Six Wakes
  • Yoon Ha Lee – Raven Stratagem
  • Nicky Drayden – The Prey of Gods
  • Sarah Rees Brennan – In Other Lands
  • Laini Taylor – Strange the Dreamer
  • Jeanette Ng – Under the Pendulum Sun
  • N. K. Jemisin – The Stone Sky

There are far more books that interest me but a bit of realism doesn’t hurt. I don’t read as much as I used to, these days, so if I manage to read half of that list, I’ll consider it a success.

Which books did you read last year that you think nobody should miss?

Half-Year Review – My Favorite Books of 2017 (so far)

This post is a little late in arriving, and my blog has been very quiet these last few weeks. I’m dealing with some big Life Stuff at the moment which saps all energy right out of me. I can’t concentrate, which means I can’t read, which means I can’t write either. I don’t really know how to deal with my situation at the moment but maybe just sitting down and telling you about all the wonderful books I have read this year will help.

2017 has been a good reading year. My favorite part – and one that led me to a lot of new books I would have otherwise overlooked – has been the Read Diverse 2017 challenge. I’ve mentioned it every time I reviewed a book I read for the challenge and I’ll continute mentioning it because I am having so much fun participating. Any year with a new Cat Valente book is by default a good year, and so far we’ve gotten one slim novel with another middle grade one coming up in September. I also stuck my toe in the waters of Urban Fantasy again and Mishell Baker proved to me that, yeah, there’s stuff in that sub-genre that even I like. Plus, I disocvered a new author that immediately went to my favorites list (Katherine Arden) and a book that totally stole my heart.

So here they are, my favorite books of the year so far (not all published this year):

Katherine Arden – The Bear and the Nightingale

This has been my absolute favorite book of the year so far and I can’t think of any part of it I didn’t adore. It has great characters, beautiful language, a story steeped in Russian myth and fairy tales, and even fantastic villains. And the cover art is gorgeous. I pre-ordered the sequel before I even finished this book and I can’t wait to read more about Vasya and her family.

Laini Taylor – Lips Touch: Three Times

I probably liked this one so much because I had had written off Laini Taylor as “just not for me”. Then she comes along with these three stories that are each so perfect and beautifully written that I couldn’t help but fall in love. The mix of fairy tale flavor with original monsters and mythology was just what I needed. In this case, I think the cover is pretty terrible and misleading, so if you’re shying away from this book because of the cover, maybe look past that and give it a chance.

Mishell Baker – Borderline and Phantom Pains

I now read Urban Fantasy! I am so proud. Mishell Baker’s heroine Millie is a double amputee suicide survivor with Borderline Personality Disorder. Oh, and she also stumbles into a job that involves policing traffic between our world and Fairyland. Although it may sound depressing (suicide survivor who lost her legs… that’s not exactly most people’s dream), these books are among the most hopeful, uplifing stories I have ever read. They are fast-paced, the characters are all complex, and the internal magic is quite intriguing.

Brandon Sanderson – Words of Radiance

You can say what you want about Sanderson but he does the epic part in Epic Fantasy really well. This is the second book in the Stormlight Archive series which I enjoyed again as a Graphic Audio book. Although it means waiting about six to twelve months longer for the next instalment, I will continue following Kaladin, Shallan, Dalinar, and Adolin in audiobook format. It’s difficult to say much about the plot without giving stuff away, but there’s just so much to discover on every layer of this book. The world building is insane, all the characters grow, and there are huge battles.

Martha Wells – All Systems Red

Come on, how could I not love an AI security unit that freed itself from its restraints, not to go on a killing rampage (despite calling itself Murderbot) but to watch endless hours of soap operas? This was one of the most refreshing, heartwarming things I read all year, and it’s set in a future that has a ton of possibilities for sequels. Murderbot stole my heart and became much more than a machine. It’s a full character with likes and dislikes, loyalty, and even fondness towards us silly humans.

Catherynne M. Valente – Palimpsest and The Refrigerator Monologues

It took me long enough to read Palimpsest but it was exactly the kind of experience I hoped it would be. Almost like falling into a dream filled with imagery and deep meaning, there isn’t much plot, but damn was this a beautiful book.
The Refrigerator Monologues may have been short and it may not give us the happy endings we would have liked for our various comic book heroines, villainesses, and superheroes’ girlfriends. But it does give them a voice and show that they are much more than just sidekicks or means to an end. I think that is important and, written with Valente’s incredible skill, also a lot of fun to read. You know, the kind of fun that is also heart-breaking.

Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples – Saga Volume Seven

Saga continues to go strong. There have been a couple of issues in this series that I didn’t unabashedly love but the overall experience is still overwhelmingly positive. This latest collection was way up there again and it delivers exactly what the series has come to be known for. Great art, amazing characters, a thrilling story that doesn’t shy away from… well, anything really. This is probably my favorite comic series, along with Fables, of all time.

Challenge stats

Considering my recent reading slump, I’m doing pretty well on my challenges.

I’ve technically already reached my goal for my Fairy Tale Retellings challenge. The plan was to read five to eight books and I’ve read six, plus I’m about to finish one more.
Against all expectations, I have also reached my Read Around the World goal, with 5 books read, all set in different places in the world.
I am a little behind on my New Books of 2017 challenge. Although I didn’t set a specific goal, I am working toward 20 books, and so far I’ve read only seven.
There’s even more catching up to do on my Speculative Fiction Authors of Color challenge. I have only read four books so far, but in my defense, I started another one which turned out to be horrible. I may just write a DNF review about that because I can’t stomach the last 40% of that book… But, number one goal for the rest of the year – prioritize Authors of Color!

The Read Diverse 2017 challenge is the one I most enjoy (I may have said this a few hundred times before…) and my goal here is to post 30 reviews of diverse reads, simply because that’s the number you need to reach to receive the final blog button. 🙂
Obviously, surpassing this goal would be great and I’ll do my very best, but if I fill this blog with 30 reviews of diverse authors and stories in one year, I’ll consider this a huge success, even without the button.

Overall, Goodreads tells me I am now 7 books behind my reading goal for the year. I already set that goal pretty low at 84 books and being that far behind is a little crushing, to be honest.

But, I am in the middle of about 8 books right now, so if I find the energy to finally finish them, I should be right back on track. Wish me luck!

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Best of 2016 – My favorite books of the year

One more week, then this miserable year will be over. I think 2016 has been tough on many people and a fresh start is much needed. At least when it comes to books, however, my year wasn’t that bad. I discovered a new author that I will probably love forever, I finally read one of Brandon Sanderson’s gigantic Stormlight Archive books, I finished a few book series I was reading, and I learned (yet again) that not all YA fiction that is hyped and marketed to death actually ends up being bad.

Here are my top books of 2016

(in no particular order)

It’s interesting that I read most of these books during the first half of the year. In summer, I took a break from reading and the second half of 2016 was pretty stressful so, again, I cut back on reading time. I’m also surprised that most of my favorite books of the year have either orange or blue-ish covers…

My happiest discovery of the year is easily C.S.E. Cooney. The woman is a genius with words and I have fall in love with her fiction hard.

Honorable author mentions must also include T. Kingfisher, Ursula Vernon’s pseudonym under which she writes retold fairy tales. I expected something cute and fluffy but was served a surprisingly dark, yet incredibly charming version of Bluebeard in her book The Seventh Bride.

I read a few series ending books, all of which managed to nail the ending to their story. Cat Valente’s Fairyland was the hardes to part with (to nobody’s surprise) but I also shed a tear or two when I closed The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater. Plus many, many tears while reading Terry Pratchett’s The Shepherd’s Crown. None of these books was perfect on its own but as they each had the tough job of ending a beloved series, they did a phenomenal job. I left all of these series satisfied, although with a major book hangover.

2016 was an excellent year for new books and I am still very much behind on reading sequels to books I loved and other new publications. But I fully intend to use the last week of the year (incidentally a week off work, muahahaha) for catching up. If you want to help me prioritize, let me know the one book published in 2016 you think I should read!

Happy Holidays everyone!

 

Best of 2015 – My Favorite Books

The year is officially over and – WOW – 2015 was an excellent year for science fiction and fantasy readers! I didn’t get to read half the new publications that I planned because there is just so much awesomeness this year. The Tor.com novella line-up was (and continues to be) wonderful, and I need to catch up on the ones that slipped through my fingers this year. In addition, a bunch of already established and well-beloved authors published new stuff this year – some of them more than one thing, because they rock.

I did read a lot of new publications as well as some older works, and all things considered, it was a brilliant reading year. Only a handful of books were really bad, most of them were good or great. And quite a few were instant favorites. So without further ado, here are my top ten(-ish) books of the year.

Top Ten Books Published in 2015

  1. Catherynne M. Valente – Radiance
  2. Naomi Novik – Uprooted
  3. Catherynne M. Valente – Speak Easy
  4. Nnedi Okorafor – Binti
  5. Paul Cornell – Witches of Lychford
  6. V. E. Schwab – A Darker Shade of Magic
  7. Maggie Stiefvater – Blue Lily, Lily Blue
  8. Catherynne M. Valente – The Boy Who Lost Fairyland
  9. Nalo Hopkinson – Falling in Love With Hominids
  10. Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples – Saga Volume 5 (not reviewed because as the series advances it becomes harder to do so without spoilers)

Top Ten Books Published Earlier

  1. Emily St. John Mandel – Station Eleven
  2. Alaya Dawn Johnson – The Summer Prince
  3. Laura Ruby – Bone Gap
  4. Kerascoet – Jolies ténèbres (Beautiful Darkness)
  5. Angela Slatter – Sourdough and Other Stories
  6. Angela Slatter – The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings
  7. Theodora Goss – In the Forest of Forgetting
  8. Karin Lowachee – Warchild
  9. Brandon Sanderson – The Mistborn Trilogy
  10. Shirley Jackson – We Have Always Lived in the Castle

…and all the other stuff that made me happy in 2015

I got new book cases! Yay! Because my boyfriend is the best, he not only got me two huge book cases for Christmas but also a number of books to fill them with. Here, have some pictures (photography is not a talent of mine…):

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The Tor.com novellas

I’ve mentioned them already, but I really love that Tor.com publishes novellas now. Not only that, but they publish mostly excellent novellas. I’ve recently started reading more short fiction (I have several collections in my top ten), but novellas are a weird length that I wasn’t very interested in. But slap some gorgeous covers on them, pick a great premise, and I’m sold. They are also wonderfully quick reads for when you don’t have time or energy for a big epic fantasy novel.

Graphic Audio

This is my audiobook discovery of the year. I stumbled across this format when looking for an audiobook for Brandon Sanderson’s first Mistborn novel and ended up buying all three volumes and devouring them in no time at all. The people at Graphic Audio make audiobooks but they’re really more “a movie in your mind” – that tagline doesn’t lie, you really feel totally immersed when listening to these things. There is music, there are sound effects, every character is voiced by a different actor (who are excellent!) and the narrator for the Mistborn books was brilliant as well.

I’ve listened to some samples of other books that interest me and not all of them speak to me as much as Mistborn did. The narrator is still the most important voice for the book and if you don’t click with him/her, that can ruin the experience. But I am always on the lookout for new audiobooks by Graphic Audio. Maybe they’ll fulfill my wish of adapting the newer Mistborn books as well… pretty please.

The Hugo Awards Spreadsheet

Renay has been doing this for a while but this year – due to last year’s troll – the sheet was read-only for a long time. It’s been opened up to edits from the public again and the fact that everything is still listed there makes me happy. Fandom can behave, after all.

This spreadsheet is equal parts blessing and curse. Because it gives me a chance to scream into the world all the wonderful stuff I think deserves nominations, it’s great. It also points me in the direction of great new fiction, movies, comic books, and other stuff – however… there is a LOT of it. My wishlist always explodes around the end of the year anyways and the Hugo recommendations don’t exactly help.

Looking forward to 2016

Next year doesn’t have it easy, trying to keep up with 2015, but there are a lot of books coming out that I’m excited about. Two of my very favorite book series will end (The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater and The Fairyland Series by Catherynne M. Valente), some fantastic writers will publish new stuff, Scott Lynch may give us the next Locke Lamora book (PLEASE!!!), and there are plenty more reading challenges to look forward to. Plus, I’m nominating and voting in the Hugo Awards again and I have some seriously favorite favorites that I’d love to see get a rocket.

In addition to all the bookish goodness, real life also holds a treat or two in store for me. I’m going to London and will drink some butterbeer as I ride my Firebolt to catch the snitch, with my wand stuck in my Gryffindor uniform pocket. Yes, dear people of the internt, I’m going to do the whole Harry Potter Experience thing and I can’t stop giggling with excitement.

Happy New Year, everyone!

finn and jake silly

 

 

My Reading Year – Favorite Books of 2013

I’m a bit late to the party of best of the year posts but here it is, and be warned: It’s quite long.

I almost can’t believe I’m still here. I expected I’d grow tired of blogging about books. Like a hobby you think you want to start but grow bored of after a few months. Well… it’s been almost two years (that’s not so bad, in internet time) and I’m still enjoying it.
It’s taught me a lot of things about myself and my reading habits, but the best side effect is that as soon as you’re passionate about something, like-minded people start coming your way. And it is these people that have helped me find the best books ever. I did use the internet before I began posting my two cents about books, but only since I’ve started talking to other bloggers, readers, and SFF fans, have I discovered books that overwhelm me, authors that I will love forever, and learned to be more critical with what I buy and read.

This is my big thank you to everybody who has recommended a book to me specifically, and to the amazing bloggers out there who write about books that might otherwise fall under the radar. You are wonderful and I send a big internet hug your way! (I’m adding a list of the biggest culprits at the bottom, so you know who you are.)

hug gif

This year, in addition to the inevitable Top Ten List, I gathered some data on the books I read. Because statistics! With all the talk about gender bias in SFF publishing, and events like the Worlds Without End Women of Genre Fiction Challenge, I’ve been watching myself more closely and I’d like to see how I did. More on that below.

Now on to the list making. This was probably my best reading year yet. EVER. I hardly read any bad books. I did read so many great ones, however, that they’re having a fight about who gets to be in my “top ten”. So yes: Cheating ahead…

MY FAVORITE READS OF 2013

Honorable mentions:

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The stats

Soooo, I was convinced I’d read more female authors this year than male ones but then I remembered how Terry Pratchett totally hijacked my reading time…

I read 97 books this year, including comics, which is a tiny step down from last year’s 104. That number splits up into 56% male authors and 44 % authors. Although it’s not a perfect balance, these are the numbers counting single books, not single authors. If I count single authors, I have read 34 female authors, 20 male authors, and two anthologies with mixed authors. So my gut feeling wasn’t complete wrong.

My author highlights this year will be obvious to anyone who’s been following me throughout the year. I read 6 Catherynne M. Valente books and an amazing 15 Terry Pratchett novels. Leo‘s Aldebaran and Betelgeuze comics make up 10 issues, which I counted as single books (they are all shiny hardcovers, so that makes each of them a book in my eyes).

Strange as this seems to me, it happens a lot that February, though the shortest month, is my strongest reading month. September and October dragged me down because work was taking up all of my time. Here’s how many books I read each month:

  • January: 11
  • February: 13
  • March: 8
  • April: 10
  • May: 5
  • June: 9
  • July: 6
  • August: 8
  • September: 5
  • October: 5
  • November: 7
  • December: 10

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Other favorite things

Favorite book bloggers
Ever since I’ve discovered them, The Book Smugglers have been responsible for the fact that I still believe in young adult fiction. After many, many disappointments, after reading the same things rehashed over and over again, I almost lost faith. But Ana and Thea read a lot more in the field than I do – almost every book I’ve picked up because of them turned out to be just as wonderful as they promised. Apart from that, their blog is also extremely well-written and they often feature author guest posts, givaways, and what have you. If you’re not following them yet, you should.

Another shout out must go to Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings. He keeps reminding me that science fiction is wonderful and that I want to read more of it. He writes great reviews, not just of books, but movies and short stories as well. I also love the challenges and not-challenges he hosts on his blog. At the moment, the 2014 Sci-Fi Experience is still going on, so jump right in. I missed this year’s R.I.P. challenge and the Once Upon a Time challenge, but even without participating, it’s great fun to see what other people are reading and watching. Here’s a resolution for next year: Don’t miss Carl’s challenges!

Ladybusiness may not post a review every week, but I love their link collections which point you to reviews by other great people. The ladies at Lady Business talk about books, movies, fanfiction, internet articles, blogging, and feminism. I particularly recommend their podcast Ladybusiness+. The mid-year breakdown episode (recorded with The Book Smugglers‘ Ana) is one of my favorites.

Alix from The Other Side of the Rain has just started her blog this year, but my gods, does she post great stuff! The first review of hers that I read was of a Cat Valente book. Then she went on to send some love Susanna Clarke’s way (of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell fame) and I knew I would gobble up the next book she loved that I hadn’t read yet. Her reviews are insightful and detailed and just make you want to go and pick up books and eat them up. And she loves the same books I do. In book blogger language that’s like an invitation to be my best friend.

Of course, what would the SF world be without SF Signal? It feels ridiculous to even mention them but, hey, this is a list of my favorite stuff, so they need to be included. SF Signal is where I go for most of my sci-fi and fantasy news, but I do have a special kind of love for some of their features. Their monthly book cover gallery of upcoming titles is both a blessing and a curse (all of the books you may want next month in one post! Yay! When the hell are you going to read them all? Uhm…). The SF Signal Podcast is hit or miss for me. I love the panel discussions, especially when authors and bloggers talk about their favorite books of some kind (the year/subgenre/etc.), but I usually zone out in the one-on-one interviews. Their new-ish column Special Needs in Strange Worlds is always interesting and well-written, their SF/F/H Link posts give me endless reading material for my daily commute, and let’s face it, the site totally deserves the two Hugo Awards it now has under its belt.

Favorite podcasts

After winning two Hugos, the SF Squeecast decided to withdraw from consideration for upcoming Hugo Awards, but if I had my way, they’d continue getting one every year. I have endless amounts of love for the cast and the books they talk about. Their podcasts are always funny, always positive, and they have great guests.

My second-favorite podcast is The Writer and the Critic with the two most charming (and filthy-mouthed) Australians you can imagine. Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond never disappoint me. Word of warning: They do spoil the books they talk about so it pays to have read them first. But once they got a discussion going, hilarity is guaranteed. They are also insightful and balance each other beautifully with Kirstyn being the voice of reason when Ian’s imagination runs away with him.

Finally, I discovered the charming Emma Newman’s podcast Tea and Jeopardy. She interviews authors but with a twist. Every episode “takes place” in a different setting. Emma sets it up beautifully, invites her guests for tea and cake, and then chats eloquently and charmingly about books and tea and whatever else comes to mind. This podcast is the reason I picked up one of Emma Newman’s books (guess what, it was as much fun as her podcast!).

Movies

I have a whole rant inside of me for this section but, in the end, I’d rather tell you about the few (very few!) SF/F movies I did enjoy this year instead of talking about why the others were so bad.

Pacific Rim needs to be on this list for obvious reasons. Yeah, it was stupid and full of plot holes. And yes, the dialogue was bad, and the plot weak, but it’s GIANT ROBOTS FIGHTING GIANT MONSTERS! Sure, they tried to push Raleigh’s story line what with him getting to terms with his brother being dead, but to me, this was Mako Mori’s movie and I don’t care what anybody says.
If this isn’t everyone’s favorite guilty pleasure of the year, I’ll be very surprised.

This is the End was a complete surprise. I didn’t expect to like it. My boyfriend and I ended up laughing so hard we could barely breathe. Look at the line-up of actors and you know exactly what you’re getting. These guys play wacky versions of themselves while the apocalypse rages outside James Franco’s house. I couldn’t pick out a favorite scene if you held a gun to my head. Then again, I couldn’t pick out a scene that didn’t have me laughing stitches, so there you go. Just writing about this makes me want to watch it again.

There are some movies from 2013 I still want to watch:

  • Gravity
  • The Conjuring
  • Catching Fire (maybe…)
  • Thor: The Dark World
  • Ender’s Game

Favorite TV Shows

This year saw the end of Matt Smith as the Doctor and, like many others, I weep at the thought. Let’s say goodbye to bow ties and the fez, and see what this Capaldi fellow brings to the Doctor Who table.

Luther was a total surprise. It’s not science fiction or fantasy but, damn, was that a good show. Idris Elba was brilliant and I couldn’t help but grin when I saw “Jane Eyre” by his side, playing a genius killer.

I started watcing Orphan Black and, yeah, it’s good. Some episodes were even great but I never had that feeling of can’t-possibly-stop-watching-now.

Adventure Time has rocked my world for the last year and I’d gladly watch any random episode over and over again. The Ice King writes in-story fanfiction about himself, for crying out loud. You can’t get much more meta. Favorite character: Marceline, the Vampire Queen.

A Young Doctor’s Notebook has gone mostly unnoticed but I love it so much. Daniel Radcliffe proves once and for all that he’s more than Harry Potter, and with John Hamm by his side, this show had me alternate between laughing and staring at the screen, completely shocked. Plus, it’s based on a short story collection by Mikhail Bulgakov (whose Master and Margarita I still desperately want to read).

Orange Is The New Black is amazing, The Newsroom may just be the show that leaves me most emotional every week, Parks and Recreation is still hilarious, Community will come back next year with some good writers (I hope) and Modern Family still makes me chuckle every week. I didn’t really warm to Almost Human, but I might just start watching Sleepy Hollow. The interwebs have copious amounts of love for that show so why not give it a try?

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New Year’s Resolutions

My reading resolutions are pretty much the same every year. I’d like to get close to reading 100 books this year, I’d like to make that about 50% of books by women. Last year’s debates and discussions also made me excited to read more fiction featuring POC and LGBT character, characters with disabilities, etc.

As far as reading challenges go, I’m doing the TBR challenge again (in the German book forum Literaturschock), I eagerly await to see what the Worlds Without End people have up their sleeve for 2014, and I’ll probably join in a bunch of reading challenges throughout the year.

That’s it. My monster end-of-the-year post is done. 2013 has been an excellent reading year and I hope 2014 continues in that vein. Happy New Year, everybody!